'Fundamentals' Will Be Key in Patriots' QB Competition, Bill Belichick Says

Devon Clements

One of the most intriguing storylines that will take place in the NFL during the month of August is the New England Patriots' quarterback competition. 

Without any preseason games, the Patriots coaching staff must figure out whether Cam Newton or Jarrett Stidham is the better fit to be put under center for New England during the 2020 season through practice reps. 

While it remains to be seen who will be the starting quarterback for the six-time Super Bowl champions come September, what head coach Bill Belichick told us on Friday during his first video conference since the draft is that it will in fact be an open competition during training camp.

"Well, I think that spot is the same as all the other spots on the team," Belichick said. "We’ve got a long way to go and we’ll see how things turn out. I can’t control how players perform. That’s up to them. We’ll give everybody an opportunity and see what happens. I don’t know."

New England has been using a very similar playbook for the past two decades, because, well, Tom Brady has been under center during that timeframe. But now that the Patriots have an open competition that involves QBs with very different skill sets, the question bared asking on Friday as to how the coaching staff would approach creating a playbook while they figure out who the starter will be. And according to Bill Belichick, before they build a specific playbook they must first teach the fundamentals of the position as it pertains to their system before they dive into specifics. 

"You set up a general structure that you implement," he said. "Everybody needs to learn certain fundamentals, certain basics and every player, no matter how long he’s played, whether it’s two years or 20 years, there’s still a basic progression to training camp at that player’s position. That’s really what we’re going to do, that’s where we’re going to start. That’s where, in my opinion, what needs to be done, regardless of who the player is, what position he plays, again, whether he’s been here for 10 years or this is his first year. 

"There’s still a process we have to go through and there’s certain fundamentals and basics in our offensive, defensive and special teams systems that need to be taught. It would be very hard for any player to function well without doing those, so I don’t think you start training camp off with your team putting in a triple reverse and a double-reverse pass and things like that that may highlight a particular player or that type of thing. Those are the kinds of things that come down the road a little bit. In order to be a good football team, you need to be good fundamentally, you need to be sound, everybody needs to be able to execute basic assignments, techniques and make basic adjustments and those transcend to everybody and every unit. I don’t think there’s any way around that."

This is where Newton may be at a disadvantage in the battle for the starting quarterback spot. Stidham, who has been on the team for over a year now, has had plenty of time to learn about the team’s offensive fundamentals. Newton on the other hand hasn’t even been able to dip his toes into that yet. 

During a normal offseason Newton likely would have been the unanimous projected starter for New England. But because of the pandemic and the cancellation of the preseason, it’s a toss up as to who will win the job. Stidham has the experience in New England’s system, by Newton is the more talented of the two. Because of that, it will be a tight race between the two of them over the next month.